Virtual Classroom 2.0
The Virtual Classroom (previously called Classroom View) provides faculty with a bird’s eye view of students’ desktops. Faculty can monitor student progress, students can raise their hands, faculty can zoom in to see a desktop closer or request remote control - similar to walking around a physical computer lab to assist students.
We re-architected the earlier version of the classroom to ensure scalability and performance. Additional enhancements include:
- hand raise
- click to enlarge a desktop
- ability to request remote control (requires student permission)
- classroom groups at the section/lab level (instead of parent level)
- removed admin access (to prevent accidental viewing of all students’ desktops)
Chat 2.0 (with Voice Calling)
Replaced the current messenger with one based on a newer technology. The new chat tool enables 1x1 chat and voice calling. Faculty and students can chat 1x1 or jump on a call to quickly address questions. Students can see who is online and collaborate with others in their classes/groups.
For students who need to run long processes (eg. simulations, data mining, rendering, etc.) that may run overnight or for multiple days, we are providing “extended compute” capability.
The solution uses Persistent VMs (assigned to specific users) on servers with no inactivity timeouts. Administrators can set usage limits and monitor usage relative to an overall budget. Pricing is based on the hourly cost for servers.
With many universities supporting remote learning, we realized there was an unmet need for virtual Mac desktops. The most common use cases are for design, architecture, and MacOS development. We ran a beta with 80+ participants and improved the offering based on user feedback. Now we are offering Mac desktops in production, which can be setup in your App Store along with all of their other apps and desktops (eg. alongside Windows and Linux desktops).
Also, we have two Mac data centers currently on the east and west coasts, and can set up additional data centers as needed, to ensure optimal performance.
Faster 1st Launch
The first time new users logged into Apporto and launched a desktop, it used to take up to a minute. This was due to provisioning and profile creation. Now, we are pre-creating accounts and assigning them when users first login – so the desktop launches very quickly and the user has a great first experience.
Best Practices Tips
When users are logging in, an informational message will display temporarily. A new message will display each time the user logs in. The goal is to provide useful tips for using Apporto. Here are a few examples:
Cloud Mounter enhancements
Since new users were having a hard time finding the cloud mounter on the desktop, we decided to give it a makeover. We replaced the nondescript “square” desktop shortcut with a cloud-shaped icon. We also shortened the name from ApportoCloudMounter to Cloud Mounter. New features include:
Replaced the current messenger with one based on a newer technology. The new chat tool enables 1x1 chat and voice calling. Students can see who is online and collaborate with others in their groups. They may set their status to “do not disturb” or simply close chat to prevent interruptions when working.
Help Center Videos
To help new users get started with Apporto, we are adding video clips to the Help Center, https://www.apporto.com/helpcenter, to demonstrate key features (eg. login and launching an App, uploading a file, mounting a cloud drive, sharing screens, etc.).
Bug fixes / enhancements
Bug fixes and minor enhancements:
- Cache reset to prevent getting stuck on login
- App Store shows more characters in desktop name
- App Store shows app description on hover (eg. list of apps available in desktop)
- Replaced screen sharing menu icon with a more intuitive icon
- Mac desktop fix for sound (requires Mojave)
- Mac desktop fix for double cursor and flickering contextual menus
- Microphone fix
- Accessibility fixes
While Apporto provides desktops as a service (including software installation and server management), we also offer tools that enable you to do this in house.
Previously the LTI Integration was available in beta. Since then, we have completed a dozen successful integrations. So, this feature is officially now in production!
Group and role information is passed to Apporto via the LTI. Groups are used to populate Chat and the Virtual Classroom, enabling collaboration among peers and assistance from faculty.
User Import Enhancements
With many universities onboarding quickly, several have opted to manually import users (since this was faster than integrating SSO). Due to increased demand for import, we have made several improvements:
- Enabled import to run offline. You may initiate the import, work on other tasks, and be notified when import completes.
- Enabled a daily automated import. You just need to place a CSV file on our SFTP site.
App Store Configurability
Previously, apps in the App Store were sorted alphabetically by default (for new users) and by frequency of use (for existing users). Now, you may be able to configure the default sort order via Admin Settings.
Also, if you’d like students to see which software is available on a particular desktop (eg. SPSS, Matlab, and R are available on the Windows Desktop), you may add a Description. Just go to the Apps screen, choose Edit, and enter a description. Students will see the description when they hover over the desktop name in the App Store.
Cloud Mounter Configurability
Superadmin ability to configure which type of drives can be mounted. By default, the Cloud Mounter enables Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Network drives to be mounted. If you only want a subset of these to be available, we can configure this on your instance.
Bug Fixes and Improvements
Bug fixes and improvements:
- Performance improvements to App Store and App Publishing
- Support for foreign characters in usernames and emails
- Simplification of new Apps form
- Improved App editing
- User search fix to prevent multiple clicks/enters triggering multiple searches